The We are Able! project, which promotes disability inclusive food security in six African countries, is now halfway its implementation. We talked to Peter Das of ZOA, who leads the Monitoring & Evaluation team, about the mid-term review, what’s been done and what’s next.
Diving into the achievements
Peter dives right into the progress made so far. “Throughout the project, society’s view of persons with disabilities has positively shifted. Numerous life stories spring to mind. People, previously overlooked or discriminated against, now actively participate in community affairs,” he observes.
Yet, it’s not all been smooth sailing. “A particularly troubling issue, still present in some regions, is the treatment of children with disabilities,” Peter recalls. “Many got hidden in back rooms, seen as a curse, and missed out on basic growth opportunities. They also faced real-world problems, like being left out of land inheritance. Often, these children got less attention than their siblings.”
But Peter quickly shifts to the brighter side. “We’ve made huge leaps forward. For example, people with disabilities now actively engage in municipal meetings. This involvement not only brings them into community decisions but also lets them voice their concerns,” he explains.
Facing the hurdles
Peter doesn’t shy away from the challenges. “Flexibility has been crucial,” Peter asserts. “We’ve often had to tweak our plans to get back on track”. He mentions the ongoing struggle with food security, made worse by global issues like the Ukraine-Russia conflict, pushing up food prices.
Nature hasn’t been kind either. Floods in places like DRC and South Sudan, droughts in Ethiopia, and locust swarms in several countries have thrown spanners in the works. These events, discussed in the consortium meeting in Addis Ababa past June, made some areas hard to reach.
And then there’s the corona pandemic. The pandemic brought travel and meeting restrictions and stirred political unrest. But it also drove tech innovations, leading to more local work.
Peter’s eyes light up when talking about the future. “The changes we’ve seen in such a short time are heartening. I’m eager for even more positive shifts. The growing focus on disability issues isn’t just at the local level. Society as a whole is paying attention. Events like the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ (IDPD) are getting bigger, showing increased awareness and inclusion.”
Shifting the attention from the local level to society as a whole is also an important theme in the mid-term review. We need to find ways to scale up activities. Improved inclusive food security in the villages and rural areas we target is wonderful, but we need to be more ambitious and try to have real influence at higher levels, such as national and global. After all, We are Able! is a lobby and advocacy project.
Peter stresses teamwork and learning from the past. “By building on our successes, we can plan better for the future. We should push for more lobby and advocacy and grow the parts of our project that work, especially with the instability in places like Uganda, Ethiopia, and Congo,” he suggests.
As We are Able! hit its midpoint, there’s a mix of hope and introspection. The mid-term review gives a clear snapshot of the project’s status, its hurdles, and possible next moves. With a number of important changes, Peter believes the project can achieve its goals and create lasting change.